VIDEO A Christmas Story

December 7, 2019   By Reverend Paul N. Papas II



The Christmas Story is story of a hero. The greatest evil the world has ever known made the greatest hero the world has ever known. Crucifixion was the cruelest form of torture and execution man devised or used.

Not every hero since has given up his life for another. Heroes generally take no concern for their own life while trying to save the lives of others.

The acknowledgement and veneration of heroes has existed for centuries. It was the ancient Greeks who are accredited with first coining the designation.

A very recent tragedy brought to light another hero.  A young graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy, whose dream was to become a pilot, is a hero after he reportedly related crucial information about the identity of the Naval Air Station (NAS) Pensacola shooter to first responders, despite having been shot several times, a family member revealed.

Joshua Kaleb Watson, 23, was confirmed as one of the three victims who were killed Friday morning when Saudi national Mohammed Saeed Alshamrani opened fire on a flight training program for foreign military personnel, Adam Watson revealed in a Facebook post. (1)

Joshua Kaleb Watson, 23, was confirmed as one of the three victims who was killed Friday morning.

“Today has been the worst day of my life. My youngest brother gave his life for his country in a senseless shooting. Joshua Kaleb Watson saved countless lives today with his own. After being shot multiple times he made it outside and told the first response team where the shooter was and those details were invaluable. He died a hero and we are beyond proud but there is a hole in our hearts that can never be filled. When we were little I gave Kaleb the name little poot and it stuck. It eventually evolved into pootis and finally uncle poot. Just wish I could talk to him one more time or wrestle with him one more time even though he could probably take me now. Thanks for all the thoughts and prayers in this difficult time. “(2)

Simply put, the key to heroism is a concern for other people in need—a concern to defend a moral cause, knowing there is a personal risk, done without expectation of reward.

Philip Zimbardo: What Makes a Hero?


Christians who helped Jews during the Holocaust were in the same situation as other civilians who helped imprison or kill Jews, or ignored their suffering. The situation provided the impetus to act heroically or malevolently. People choose one path or the other.

Some choose a path to meet the needs of others. For example there is New England Patriots tight end Benjamin Watson will use his custom-made “My Cause, My Cleats” cleats to bring attention to his One More Foundation. H e created the One More Thing Foundation to spread the love and hope of Christ to one more soul.

“And, we do that by following the three charges that are given in Micah 6:8 when it talks about doing justice, loving-kindness, and walking humbly with our God,” he explained.

Watson said that, for the last decade, the foundation has given him the opportunity to meet people with “real needs” and “to know the one who can meet their needs forever and ever.”

“Whether it’s promoting and giving food to those who are hungry, doing events around the holidays, promoting education, standing against injustice — whether that be sex trafficking, abortion, or racial injustice … and also, just bringing kindness to people,” he continued. (3)

Courtesy of Eric J. Adler and the New England Patriots

Heroes | Restoring Faith in Humanity | 2017


“True heroism is remarkably sober, very undramatic. It is not the urge to surpass all others at whatever cost, but the urge to serve others at whatever cost.” — Arthur Ashe, professional tennis player.

There have been thousands of unnamed and unknown heroes over the centuries. Heroes include those who stood ready, who fought and who died for the cause of freedom, first responders, those who served others, and the many that have helped someone without regard to their personal safety,

The true Christmas Story is an everyday story.

The real reason for the season was born to die and save us all.






Below are a handful of links to heroes

Faithful to Finish His Work in You


Philippians 1:6

“The life of a Christian is a series of miracles.” So said Charles Haddon Spurgeon, the great British preacher of the 19th century. If he is correct, why don’t we ever talk about those miracles? When a friend asked me that question several years ago, I asked several friends to tell me about the miracles they had personally experienced. All of the stories were inspiring, and some were very instructive. Here is one man’s story:

Tonight I read with interest your comments about miracles. I believe God is still in the miracle business. And the answers are still spectacular. But most of the answers don’t seem to me to be instantaneous.

We really are the immediate gratification generation. I think we read the New Testament and wonder why we don’t see God performing instantaneous, spectacular answers to prayer framed within peals of thunder and bolts of lightning. I think He does give spectacular answers, only in His time. I base this on my own experience. If I had asked a close friend 16 years ago to write down a description of me and then done the same today, here is the conclusion you would come to once you read them: These are two distinctly different people with very little in common.

What happened? Nothing short of a miracle!! I won’t go into all the circumstances, but 16 years ago I was at the end of my emotional and spiritual rope. One day I got down on my knees and told God to either change me or take me home because I didn’t want to live another minute if my life was going to be the same as it had been. That’s when I started to hear the faint sounds of hammering and sawing inside.

To jump to the end of the story, over the last 16 years God has created a whole new person inside this one. That’s not visible to most folks. And it wasn’t in the twinkling of an eye. But it is a miracle! It is spectacular! And it isn’t over yet! What God has done in my life is more miraculous than if He had grown a new arm or leg to replace an amputated one—because He has grown a whole new person. He still does miracles! They are spectacular! They are in His time! To God Be The Glory!!

Miracles All Around

As I read his story the thought occurred to me that there are miracles all around us if only we had eyes to see them. Our problem is that we look for outward, spectacular results when God’s work, like the tiny mustard seed, begins in a hidden place inside the human heart. As wonderful as reports of physical healing are—and I thank God that he still heals in answer to prayer today—the greater miracle is the transformation of a sinner into a saint by the grace of God.

I love one particular sentence in the last testimony: “That’s when I started to hear the faint sounds of hammering and sawing inside.” If you have been a believer for any length of time, you already know about that hammering and sawing inside your own life. Theologians have a big word for it. They call it “sanctification.” It’s the work God does inside the heart of a believer in order to make him into a brand-new person.

Here are five fast facts you need to know about sanctification:

It is the work of God.

It is a lifetime process.

It is never complete in this life.

God won’t stop until the job is done.

God uses everything that happens to us—the good and the bad—to make us like Jesus.

With this sermon I am coming near the end of the series called “The God You Can Trust.” Next week is the final message and then I will be on sabbatical for two months, a gift from the elders to mark my 10th anniversary as pastor of Calvary Memorial Church. I plan to say more about that next week, but for the moment I would simply remark that in these final two Sundays, I want to talk about some themes that have been important to me over the last ten years. If what I have to say sounds familiar, it’s because the promise of God to finish his work in us has become a precious theme in my heart. I believe it much more today than I did 10 years ago.

As a place to hang our thoughts, let’s take a quick look at four passages that speak of God’s determination to finish his work in us.

I. He starts the work in us.

Being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.

Note three things from this famous verse. First, God takes the initiative in starting his work in you. He is the one who “begins a good work” in us. Salvation always begins with God. He makes the first move, and if he didn’t make the first move, we would make no move at all. Perhaps you’ve heard of the country preacher who was being examined for ordination to the ministry. When asked how he had become a Christian, the preacher replied, “I did my part and God did his.” That sounded questionable, so the learned brethren on the council asked the preacher to explain “his part in salvation.” “My part was to run from God as fast as I could,” the preacher answered. “God’s part was to run after me and catch me and bring me into his family.” That’s a perfectly biblical answer because all of us were born running from God, and unless God took the initiative to find us, we would still be running away from him.

Second, God takes personal responsibility for completing his work in you. I find this a most comforting thought. God has a “good work” that he intends to accomplish in your life and in mine. God intends that all his children be conformed to the image of Jesus Christ, and he will not rest until that “good work” is finally finished.

Perhaps you’ve seen those buttons that read PBPGIFWMY. Those cryptic letters stand for a most important truth: “Please be patient. God isn’t finished with me yet.” Thank God, it’s true. I may not look like much—but God isn’t finished with me yet. And when you look in the mirror—and even deeper into your own soul, you may not like what you see, but no matter. God isn’t finished with you yet.

There is good news and bad news in this truth. The good news is that since God isn’t finished yet, we have great hope for the future. The bad news is that since God isn’t finished yet, he won’t let us stay as we are today. He’s going to keep chipping away at us until we are conformed to the image of Jesus Christ. Most of us have a long way to go—and some of us have an enormous distance to travel. But it doesn’t matter. If you find yourself in the muck and mire of personal defeat, be encouraged. Child of God, he’s not finished with you yet. Rise and walk, my Christian friend. God is not finished with you yet. If you’ve been sent to the bench for a personal foul, learn the lesson God has for you and then get back in the game.

Third, God guarantees the outcome of his work in you. Not only does God start the process, and continue the process, he also guarantees its ultimate outcome. He will “carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.” This means that God won’t be turned aside by difficulties of any kind. He is so determined to make you like Jesus that even your own backsliding won’t ultimately hinder the accomplishment of his purpose. Someday you and I will stand before Jesus Christ as redeemed children of God—holy, blameless, and complete in every way. We’re a far sight from that today. But a better day is coming for the people of God. What is incomplete will be made complete. What is unfinished will be finished. What is lacking will be made full. What is partial will be made whole. What is less than enough will be far more than adequate. What is broken will be fixed. What is hurt will be healed. What is weak will be made strong. What is temporary will be made permanent.

God has promised to do it and he cannot lie. Has God begun a good work in your life? Do you feel incomplete and unfinished? Fear not, child of God. He will complete his work in you.

II. He keeps us from falling.

To him who is able to keep you from falling and to present you before his glorious presence without fault and with great joy—

First, there is the power of God: “To him who is able to keep you from falling.”

Second, there is the purpose of God: “To present you before his glorious presence.”

Third, there is the promise of God: “Without fault and with great joy.”

God has ordained that those whom he calls to salvation will be so preserved that though they stumble along the way, they will not utterly fall away. He guards his children by his Spirit and with the holy angels to insure that none are lost during their earthly pilgrimage. I love the way J. Vernon McGee used to put it. As many as God calls, that many will he one day receive in heaven. Dr. McGee pictured the Lord in heaven counting his sheep as they come into the fold: “…94…95…96…97…98…99…McGee, where’s McGee? I can’t find him!” No, he would say, it’s not like that. All of God’s sheep will make it. Not one will be lost in the process.

Jack Wyrtzen loved to put it this way: “I’m as sure of heaven as if I’d already been there 10,000 years.” How can a Christian say that? Because it doesn’t rest on me or you. It rests on the word of the eternal God. If God has said he’s going to do it, he will do it. You can take it to the bank. What God says he will do, he will do.

Jude says that God’s purpose is to present us before the Lord without a single blemish. The Greek word for “without fault” comes from the temple sacrifices. It describes a lamb that is free from all defects. No cuts, no broken bones, no spots, no diseases of any kind. God said, “Bring me a lamb without spot or don’t bring one at all.” He rejects defective sacrifice as unworthy of his holiness.

But if that is true, how then will any of us stand before the Lord? We all have spots, blemishes, secret faults, hidden sins, wrong attitudes, bad habits, and sin that hangs around our necks like a heavy weight. We’re all struggling to make it from one day to the next, and many of us live with a guilty conscience and a keen sense of our own failure.

It is precisely at this point that the words of Jude 24 become so important. God intends to present us before his own throne faultless, spotless, free from everything that in this life drags us down. In that great day the angels will hush their singing as one by one the saints of God are introduced to our Heavenly Father. I picture the Lord Jesus saying, “Father, this is Stan Utigard. He has just come from a hard struggle on the earth. By virtue of my blood, I present him to you perfect, spotless, and without any blemish.” And the Father will say, “Well done, good and faithful servant. Enter into the joy of the Lord.”

So it shall be for all of us. But what about our sins? They are covered by the blood of Jesus and judged at the Cross. All the failures of this life will be left far behind. All the undone work of a lifetime will be but a dim memory—if we remember it at all. In that great day we will be completely delivered from sin and all its devastation.

Don’t skip over the little phrase “with great joy.” In Greek it means something like “with unbridled exultation.” When the saints go marching in, it will be like one of those noisy parades in New Orleans (only without the bad stuff). We will enter heaven not with downcast eyes and somber faces, but singing and laughing and with shouts of eternal joy. “Hallelujah, by the grace of God, we made it.”

Last Friday night my dear friend Bob Briner passed through the eternal gates. His struggles are forever over, his day of rejoicing has come at last. He is now before the Father, without spot or blemish, healed and made complete forever.

When sin torments you this week, let this thought encourage you. Better days are coming. Days of victory. Days of rejoicing are not far away. Your present failure won’t last forever. One day the battle will be over and you will stand in God’s presence whole and complete, free from everything that drags you down in this life. You will enter heaven with a song on your lips. God has willed it so.

III. He equips us to do his will.

May the God of peace, who through the blood of the eternal covenant brought back from the dead our Lord Jesus, that great Shepherd of the sheep, equip you with everything good for doing his will, and may he work in us what is pleasing to him, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen

The word “equip” means to restore to proper working condition. It was used for getting an army ready for battle or sewing up a hole in a fishing net or setting an arm that was broken. You equip something when you prepare it to be used for its proper purpose.

God is willing to equip us to do everything he wants us to do. Let me flip that over. God will never call us to do something without also and at the same time equipping us to do it. Never. He simply will not do it.

I know many people who today face difficult situations. You may be out of money. Some of you are out of a job. Some of you are facing surgery very soon. Others face debilitating illness. Some of you have very hard decisions you need to make this week and you don’t know what to do.

Take this word of cheer. Whatever you have to do this week, God will equip you to do it. No matter how hard the road ahead, God has already started mending your nets and arming you for battle. You don’t even have to ask him; he just does it because that’s the kind of God he is. He never, never, never calls you to any hard task without giving you what you need to get the job done.

Notice how he does it. He works in us from the inside out. “May he work in us what is pleasing to him.” If we need courage, he works that in us. If we need compassion, he gives it to us. If we need integrity, he builds it in. If we need wisdom, he imparts the wisdom we need. If we need common sense, he finds a way to give it to us.

So many of us look at a difficult situation and pray, “Lord, change my situation.” That’s not usually God’s will. Much more often the difficult situation has come as a means of making us grow spiritually. God often brings difficulty into our lives to deepen our total dependence on him. When that happens, we ought to pray, “Lord, change me so that I can face this situation.” That’s a prayer God is pleased to answer.

IV. He promises to complete his work in us.

May God himself, the God of peace, sanctify you through and through. May your whole spirit, soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. The one who calls you is faithful and he will do it.

When Jesus returns, two great things will happen for the believer:

A. Our character will be revealed.

B. Our perfection will be complete.

We are so far from this now. We seem to make such slow progress. Do you ever get discouraged about your own life? I do. Do you ever stand in front of a mirror and say “What’s wrong with you? Why aren’t you getting better?” Sometimes it seems as if the Christian life is three steps forward and two steps back.

I’m aware that spiritual growth can be very discouraging at times. It’s like climbing Mount Everest, the closer you get to the top, the farther away it seems. But God has a reason for all this. He wants us to depend on him for everything. He designed life so that it works only when he is in total charge of everything. When we try to run the show—which we often do—things begin to fall apart.

“The one who calls you is faithful.” This little phrase is all-important. It is the foundation for the doctrine of eternal security. We like to say that those who are saved are saved forever. How do we know this is true? We know it because God is faithful to keep his promises. Our entire hope—both in this life and in the life to come—rests on the faithfulness of God. His faithfulness bears the entire weight of our puny efforts.

What makes us think that God will ever finish the job? In my mind’s eye, I picture God as a sculptor working with a rough piece of marble. He’s working on a big chunk named “Ray Pritchard.” It’s a hard job because the chunk is badly marred, misshapen, discolored, and cracked in odd places. It’s about the worst piece of marble a sculptor could ever find. But God is undeterred and he’s working patiently at his job, chipping away the bad parts, chiseling an image into the hard stone, stopping occasionally to polish here and there. One day he finally finishes one section of the statue. The next morning when he returns to the studio that section is messed up. “I thought I finished that yesterday,” he says, “Who’s been messing with my statue?” With a guilty grin, I raise my hand. It turns out that I’m the culprit. I’m my own worst enemy. What I thought would improve things has only messed them up. But God is faithful. He patiently picks up his chisel and goes back to work. He won’t quit half-way through a project.

He Will Do It

Note the last four words of verse 24: “He will do it.” They are simple and direct. No qualification, no hesitation, no doubt of any kind. Just four simple words: He will do it. Not “He may do it” or “He might do it” or “He could do it” or “He will do it if he feels like it.” Not even “He will do it if we do our part.” Just a simple declarative statement that God will do it. Unqualified by even the slightest reference to anything on our part. When it’s all said and done, what matters is not my strong hold on God, but his strong hold on me.

Sometimes when I ask someone, How are you? the reply comes, “I’m doing all right.” That’s a conversational nicety, but it’s not accurate. If the truth be told, we’re not “all right.” Some of us feel “all right” and most of us feel “partly right and partly wrong.” But none of us are completely “all right” in every area of life. For the moment, we’re not “all right” but by God’s grace we’re moving in that direction and in the end, all God’s children are going to be “all right’ when we stand in his presence.

In that day we will be whole and complete. Perfect, pure, perfected. No more hammering, no more sawing, no more finish work. Why? Because God finishes what he starts.

Place Yourself in God’s Hands

We may chafe, doubt and despair of any progress at all. We may be angry and give up. But God does not change. He is faithful and he will do it.

What is left for us? Simply to place ourselves in God’s hands. To cooperate with the Master Designer as he shapes us into the image of Jesus. To say, “Lord, here am I. Make me what you want me to be.”

Take heart. God is at work in your life. He will not stop until the job is done.


Original here

America, We’ve Been Warned


God Blessing the Earth. Found in the collection of Nationalmuseum Stockholm. (Photo by Fine Art Images/Heritage Images/Getty Images)

By Sam Rohrer | November 21, 2019


Have you ever heard the phrase, “Don’t say you haven’t been warned”? In a day where false alarms, exaggerated warnings and intentional scare tactics are used by a deceptive culture, it’s sometimes difficult to separate true warnings from deceptive false alarms. So how do you know?

When God warns, it’s real, and we’d better sit up and take notice. In the Bible, the word “woe” or warning is used nearly 100 times—98 to be exact. The Old Testament prophets used it. Christ used it many times Himself. The word occurs in the Book of Revelation in final judgment. In nearly every case where a woe is given, the warning of judgment is certain, and God’s punishment imminent.

For example, Noah warned the people for 100 years of a coming flood. The people heard. They considered. They rejected. They died. God gives us warnings so that we might live.

Then in Isaiah Chapter 5, God’s prophet pronounced six specific warnings of imminent judgment against identified national sins. These woes were sobering, the sins specific and God’s judgment certain. The message was to Israel, but the application is for America.

The first woe identified the sin of materialism. After God blessed the nation with security, wealth, houses and productive land, the people turned their back on Him. The result? God withheld His blessings, removed His protection, allowed rebellion within and threats of attack from without. Does this sound anything like America today?

The second woe is found in Isaiah 5:11, identified the sin of hedonism. Consumed with an intoxicating addiction to alcohol, drugs, entertainment and partying, the nation willfully rejected God and the consequences of evil choices. Again, sound like America?

Thirdly, Isaiah 5:18 identifies the horrible practice of literally promoting sin and evil. Without regard for God or moral truth, the nation dreamed of evil, sinned without remorse and even belittled God by profaning His name and His truth.

Isaiah 5:20 tells of the fourth woe—the sin of moral relativism. Even more dangerous is when a nation redefines moral truth into moral evil. This is accomplished by discarding the Ten Commandments as dangerous, killing the unborn through abortion, redefining marriage between two men or two women, and much more. Have these redefinitions been made in America? Yes—all have!

The fifth woe outlined in Isaiah 5:21 is the sin of arrogance and corruption. God hates pride because it embodies the sin of satanic defiance against God. Through pride, mankind pronounces himself to be God, which results in the rejection of God and eternal life.

Lastly, Isaiah pronounced the sixth woe by identifying the sin of corrupted leadership that is fueled by dependence on alcohol and drug addictions. He warned: Woe unto the political and military leaders who through addiction become bribed and incapable of sound judgment.

What is the result of continually ignoring God’s true warnings? Isaiah 5:24 says that God’s love will be turned to anger, His blessings will turn to judgment, murder and death of the people will increase, enemy nations will threaten to attack—suddenly and overwhelmingly—and all trusted defenses will fail.

It happened to Israel. It will happen to America if we don’t soon change our ways. It’s past time to look to God, repent and beg His mercy.

The similarities of the six woes in Isaiah Chapter 5 and how they relate to America today are astounding. What will we do to heed God’s warnings? Will we claim ignorance and say we were never warned?

While God is full of mercy, His justice will prevail. When God warns, we’d better listen because time eventually runs out. God has been warning America. America doesn’t care. Do you?

(The Hon. Sam Rohrer is president of the American Pastors Network, a national network of pastors with constitutional and biblical teachings that discusses today’s pressing issues. He was a Pennsylvania lawmaker for 18 years and hosts the daily “Stand in the Gap Today” national radio program on more than 400 stations and Host of the “Stand in the Gap” national television program.)

Two Kinds of Opposition to Jesus

Dec 9, 2019 by John Piper

When Herod the king heard this, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him. (Matthew 2:3)

Jesus is troubling to people who do not want to worship him, and he arouses opposition against those who do. This is probably not a main point in the mind of Matthew, but it is an inescapable implication as the story goes on.

In this story, there are two kinds of people who do not want to worship Jesus.

The first kind is the people who simply do nothing about Jesus. He is a nonentity in their lives. This group is represented at the beginning of Jesus’s life by the chief priests and scribes. Matthew 2:4 says, “Assembling all the chief priests and scribes of the people, [Herod] inquired of them where the Christ was to be born.” So they told him, and that was that: back to business as usual. The sheer silence and inactivity of the leaders is overwhelming in view of the magnitude of what was happening.

And notice, Matthew 2:3 says, “When Herod the king heard this, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him.” In other words, the rumor was going around that someone thought the Messiah was born. The inactivity on the part of the chief priests is staggering: why not go with the magi? They are not interested. They are not passionate about finding the Son of God and worshiping him.

The second kind of people who do not want to worship Jesus is the kind who are deeply threatened by him. That’s Herod in this story. He is really afraid. So much so that he schemes and lies and then commits mass murder just to get rid of Jesus.

So today, these two kinds of opposition will come against Christ and his worshipers: indifference and hostility. I surely hope that you are not in one of those groups.

And if you are a Christian, let this Christmas be the time when you ponder what it means — what it costs — to worship and follow this Messiah.

The Word of the Lord: Bringer of Hope

dark, rainy morning

With no light in it,

Not a glimmer, a day with no ray of hope or encouragement.

The Word of the Lord came to me.

“Shalom! Peace! My peace take it!”

“Do not be worried or anxiousNeither fearful nor dismayed. Cast aside all the burdens carried for all others; take in their placemy burden instead. Yes, take my burden, even the Word of GodCarry my Word with you. Let it be your light in dark places.”

“The days are dismal and dark, you say. So they are!”

“The worries and the tasks are many. So they are!”

“Every neighbour adds to his neighbour’s load; every man, every woman casting off their share of the work, responsibility and blame onto someone else. Every ill, every problem, every grief is caused by human hands.”

“Every word of untruth comes from a human mouth- ”

“Every word of Truth and Wisdom from mine”

“So let Martha be like Mary. Set aside the many things and the many teachers, and choose the good part – come to your Heavenly Teacher – choose Me. For I chose you.”

“Take my Peace.

Take My Burden.

Take my Yoke.

Take my Word and speak it out.

It will not return to Me without bearing fruit-

Look! My Word pierces the darkness like a sword,

It is the bringer of Hope.”

This Word came with the dawning of the day. And after it a vision of the Lord Jesus wearing the crown of thorns before Pilate; forced to kneel to receive the Burden of the Cross for our sake, in my vision I was allowed to kneel at His side. The Lord looked and made me welcome.

It may be that someone reading this feels that they are carrying burdens and responsibilities that they cannot put down, for love’s sake- yet they are conscious of the Lord calling them closer and requiring them to do just that. Listen to His voice please. As I must do and please pray for me, that I may have grace to do the same.

VIDEO Dolly Parton started making Christian music after God called her to share faith

By Kim Davis, The Western Journal  November 26, 2019

Country music icon Dolly Parton spoke at length about her decision to focus on making Christian music, revealing that she sees her music not as a job but as a “ministry.”

The 62nd Grammy Awards ceremony is set for Jan. 26, 2020, and Parton has two nominations for collaborations she has worked on in the past two years, the Knoxville News Sentinel reported.

Parton’s first nomination is in the Gospel/ Contemporary Christian Music category for her collaboration on the single, “God Only Knows,” with the band King & Country.

The second is for her song “Girl in the Movies,” which she and Linda Perry penned for the 2018 Netflix move, “Dumplin’.”

In light of her recent nominations, Parton spoke with People, opening up about why she started focusing more on making Christian music.

“I’ve done so many things,” Parton, 73, told People. “And I see that I am in a position to help. People look at me like someone they’ve always known, like a mother or sister. If I say something good, people might listen.”

As for her decision to make Christian music, Parton revealed she felt that God was calling her to do so.

“I’ve just felt like God was calling me into that,” Parton said. “I’ve always felt like my music was more my ministry than a job. I just feel that this day and time, we need more people that are in a position to help to try to do something, if they can, to brighten the world a little bit. That’s what I’m hoping to do now.”

In addition to her collaboration with King & Country, Parton participated in two other faith-based song collaborations recently, including “There Was Jesus,” with Christian artist Zach Williams and “Faith” with DJ duo Galantis.

Parton revealed that the timing of making the three songs seemed orchestrated by God.

“I felt really blessed because I had decided just in the last few months that I was going to try to do more faith-based things or at least more uplifting music,” Parton said.

“Then right out of the blue came King and Country and their ‘God Only Knows.’ And then the Zach Williams song, ‘There Was Jesus.’ All three of those just came and I went, ‘Well, that must be an answer.’ I’ve got three faith-based songs out now, which I feel very good about.

“Whether you believe in God or not, we need to believe in something bigger and better than what’s going on because we’re not doing too hot. We need to try to do a little better.”

Parton continued by saying while she does not want to force her beliefs on anybody, she hopes that people will see her life as pointing to God and not to anybody else.

“I’m not trying to tell anybody how to be,” Parton said. “I just say who I am and how I am.”

“If there’s something you see in me that’s got a light, then I like to think that’s God’s light — not my light,” she continued.

“In my faith, it bothers me sometimes when I see people worshiping the stars and all that. I’m like, ‘Oh Lord, don’t ever let me go there.’ That’s why I want to ship that on up to God. I don’t need nobody worshiping me. If I do shine and radiate, I’d like to think that is God’s light and I’d like to pass that on. I want to direct people to Him, not me.”

Original here

China changes Bible characters to ancient Chinese in official church magazine

By Leah MarieAnn Klett, Christian Post Reporter

Heavenly Wind magazine is published monthly by the National Committee of the Three-Self Patriotic Movement and the China Christian Council.  | Bitter Winter

The Chinese government is demanding the country’s state-sanctioned Protestant church to use artwork depicting biblical characters as ancient Chinese men and women.

According to Bitter Winter, Heavenly Wind magazine is published monthly by the National Committee of the Three-Self Patriotic Movement and the China Christian Council. Since the beginning of the year, the magazine’s cover art has featured “sinicized” biblical illustrations with Jesus talking to ancient Chinese characters in Chinese landscapes, a move Bitter Winter warns “goes well beyond the iconographic ‘inculturation’ traditionally practiced by Catholic and some other missionaries.”

For example, Mary was “personified as an ancient Chinese woman,” and the miracle of the five loaves and two fishes shows Jesus feeding characters “portrayed with their hair tied in traditional Chinese buns.” Additionally, Jesus is shown wearing traditional Han attire.

A 70-year-old Christian from the province of Qinghai told Bitter Winter the Communist government “has always talked about de-Westernization” and “doesn’t allow Chinese people to believe in the God of foreigners.”

“But I never expected that the Lord Jesus and saints through the ages would be transformed into Chinese people,” the elderly Christian said.

“My eyes widened when I saw Mary with her hair tied in a bun like an ancient Chinese woman. It’s so bizarre.”

China’s sinicization of the Bible goes beyond imagery. The July edition of Heavenly Wind included charts comparing certain passages of Scripture with the teachings of a book written by Chinese philosopher Zhu Bolu (1617-1688).

For instance, the Bible verse, “It is a sin to despise one’s neighbor, but blessed is the one who is kind to the needy” (Proverbs 14:21), was said to be similar to the Confucian saying, “There is nothing more shameful than being jealous of the wealth and power of others; there is nothing lowlier than looking down on poor people.”

“This is like killing someone with an invisible knife,” one preacher told Bitter Winter. “During the Cultural Revolution, if you believed in Jesus, the Communist Party would arrest you and kill you in the open. Now, the regime is gradually distorting the Christian doctrine in secret.”

According to Bitter Winter, Heavenly Wind magazine “has always been a good indicator of the state of ‘official’ Christianity in China.” Christians in the country are concerned that the government is using traditional Chinese culture to “replace the Bible and distort biblical teachings,” it adds.

In 2016, President and Communist Party leader Xi Jinping ordered the sinicization of all religions to ensure they are loyal to the officially atheistic party.

Since then, in efforts to free religion from perceived foreign influence, Chinese officials have shut down churches, arrested congregations, and reportedly attempted to rewrite the Bible.

In September, it was reported that Chinese government officials demanded that clergy affiliated with the Three-Self Patriotic Movement in Yuzhou city base their sermons on a book that blends biblical teachings with the teachings of Confucius.

A pastor from the Yuzhou area warned that some of the arguments in the book completely misrepresent some teachings in the Bible.

In June, multiple Three-Self churches in Qingdao city in the Shandong province were ordered by the Religious Affairs Bureau to sing new patriotic hymns written by the state-sanctioned Christian councils instead of traditional worship songs.

The chorus of one of the hymns included the lines: “China is beautiful; China is great; the sons and daughters of China love China. … Bless China, O Lord.”

Watchdog group Open Doors USA ranked China No. 27 on its World Watch List of countries where Christians face the most severe persecution for their faith.

Open Doors warned in its report that “the increased power of the government and the rule of President Xi Jinping continue to make open worship difficult in some parts of the country.”